Rockfield Studios

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Rockfield Studios
IndustryMusic
Founded1963; 57 years ago (1963)
FounderKingsley and Charles Ward
Headquarters,
Wales
Websitewww.rockfieldmusicgroup.com

Rockfield Studios is a recording studio just outside the village of Rockfield, Monmouthshire, Wales.

History[edit]

The entrance to the studios

The Ward family bought Amberley Court Farm in Rockfield in the early 1950s. Originally a Shire horse breeding centre, they ran it as a livestock farm, with 500 pigs and a herd of milking cows.[1]

Sons Kingsley and Charles were educated at Abergavenny Grammar School. There Charles got into the early rock and roll music of Elvis Presley, and began playing an acoustic guitar that he purchased for £5. In 1960 the brothers formed "a little rock group" and Kingsley wrote a couple of songs.[2][3] The brothers started recording songs, using a tape deck borrowed from a local businessman.[2] Deciding that they needed to get a record deal, they drove up to EMI's pressing plant in Middlesex, but were redirected to Manchester Square, London where on that same day without an appointment they met producer George Martin.[1][2] Martin decided not to sign them, but the brothers recognised that Martin only took the meeting as they had a portable reel-to-reel tape deck, and told them that they were the first artists to do that.[2]

The brothers returned home and, in 1963, converted an existing farmhouse into a recording studio by investing in a 8-track tape deck and lining it with pig feed bags to create sound deadening.[2][4] In 1965, they became the world's first residential studio, set up so that bands could come and stay in the peaceful rural surroundings to record. They have two studios, the Coach House and the Quadrangle, which are both set up for digital and analogue recordings.[citation needed]

The first big hit recorded in the studios was Dave Edmunds' "I Hear You Knocking" in 1970. In the early 1970s, the studios were used to record seven albums by Budgie, several by Hawkwind, one by Hobo, Peter Hammill's second solo album Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night in 1973, Ace's hit single "How Long" in 1974, and Queen's album Sheer Heart Attack. Queen first worked on developing their album A Night at the Opera and the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" for a month at Ridge Farm Studio during the summer of 1975,[5] then moved to Rockfield in August 1975 to begin recording the album, which became the band's first Platinum-selling album in the US.[6] Motörhead made their first recordings at the studios in 1975 and were, briefly, signed to the Rockfield record label.[4] Cyril Jordan of the Flamin' Groovies (who recorded at Rockfield several times between 1972 and 1978) said in 2014, "We thought Rockfield was the new Sun recording studios."[7]

During a 12-month period in 1996–97, Rockfield sessions resulted in five UK Number One albums, by Oasis, Black Grape, The Charlatans and the Boo Radleys.[citation needed]

As the trend moved from rock music of the 1970s to the electronic dance music of the 1980s, which had a far greater use of technology and could almost be produced from a bedroom, the need for space and complex analogue recording systems reduced. Rockfield also faced more competition, with many of the main recording labels creating their own residential recording studios, such as Virgin's "The Manor".[1] With the Rockfield company facing dire financial consequences, the Ward brothers decided to split the farm, with Kingsley retaining the Rockfield half, whilst Charles refurbised a semi-derelict manor house on the opposite side of the valley to create Monnow Valley Studio.[1]

Facing financial difficulties, and with his wife Anne working full-time as a book keeper, Kingsley was approached by friend and record producer John Leckie to record the first album of Manchester band The Stone Roses.[1] Resident for 14 months to record both their first and second albums, the band saved the studio financially. The band's residency created interest from other bands, resulting in recording sessions for other bands including Oasis.[1]

In July 2020 the documentary Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm, directed by Hannah Berryman, was broadcast by BBC Four.[8]

The Coach House Studio[edit]

The Coach House studio was constructed in 1968 and is based around vintage microphone amp and equalisers. The main recording console is a NEVE 8128 inline desk with outboard including Neve 1060 microphone amps, Rosser microphone amps, API 550 equalisers and Urei 1176 compressors.[citation needed]

This live area was designed for band recordings with an emphasis on separation and natural acoustics. It consists of the live recording area with a Yamaha grand piano, one stone drum room, an acoustically variable second drum room and two isolation booths.[citation needed]

Artists who have recorded in the Coach House include Oasis, Bullet for My Valentine, Sepultura, Jayce Lewis, Simple Minds and Opeth.[citation needed]

The Quadrangle Studio[edit]

Rockfield (Studios) was an absolute dream because it was pastoral, funny and had a fantastic musical history ... I moved here and became one of these dismal, happy, sad, failed musicians that other people cross the street to avoid ... I really enjoyed my being in this Rockfield environment. I had lived in this goldfish bowl in Led Zeppelin.

Robert Plant[3]

The Quadrangle studio was constructed in 1973 and is best known for the recording of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". The main recording console is a MCI 500 series inline desk with outboard including Neve 1061 microphone amps, Rosser microphone amps, API 550 equalisers and Urei 1176 compressors.[citation needed]

This live area of the quadrangle studio was designed to record bands as live. This consists of the live recording area with its Bösendorfer grand piano, two large variable acoustic drum rooms and three isolation booths along with its 6m x 7m central control room.[citation needed]

Artists who have recorded in the Quadrangle include the Manic Street Preachers, Robert Plant, and Coldplay.[citation needed]

Artist roster[edit]

1960s[edit]

1970s[edit]

1980s[edit]

1990s[edit]

2000s[edit]

2010s[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Shuttleworth, Peter (18 July 2020). "Rockfield Studios: Where Ozzy, Oasis, Queen and Coldplay took off". BBC Wales News. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hallas, Tim (1 March 2019). "Inside Rockfield Studios, the legendary Monmouthshire recording retreat". MusicTech. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Zep singer returns to solo roots". BBC News. 20 May 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Collins, Jeff (2007). Rock Legends At Rockfield. University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-2097-6.
  5. ^ Taylor, Roger. "The Telegraph", London, 1975
  6. ^ Davies, Jordan (5 May 2016). "Making music and history" – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  7. ^ Rawls, Alex (28 April 2014). "The Flamin' Groovies Can't Stop Shaking'". MySpiltMilk.com. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  8. ^ "BBC Two - Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm". BBC.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Rockfield Studios - Legendary music studios". RecordProduction.com. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  10. ^ Christopulos, J., and Smart, P.: Van der Graaf Generator – The Book, p. 161-162. Phil and Jim publishers, 2005.
  11. ^ Christopulos, J., and Smart, P.: Van der Graaf Generator – The Book, p. 212. Phil and Jim publishers, 2005.
  12. ^ "Lush - Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson on Their 1994 Album "Split"". Under the Radar. Retrieved 25 September 2015.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°49′21.0″N 2°44′35.7″W / 51.822500°N 2.743250°W / 51.822500; -2.743250